01a Sumerian cuneiform tablet (letter)_[32]


History of the Book” (fall 2014) was a lively printer’s case of printing history. But one important little machine was missing: the manual typewriter. Its keys gave first light to most books and other writings for 100 years after the 1870s, and it is still used in the developing world. It helped feed my family and led me to a newsy, clickety-clack start in newspapering. The manual typewriter had more inventors than keys. One American, Christopher Latham Sholes, is credited with the first commercially successful one in 1873; he coined the word “typewriter” and developed the famous “QWERTY” top row. For a story in The Baltimore Sun, consumer advocate Ralph Nader and Baltimore novelist Stephen Dixon told me about their refusal to write on anything else. Dixon said, “Computers feel awful. There was nothing to it. Too easy. So ticky-tacky. I feel creative on a manual. I love the keyboard action. It’s like playing a piano.” Nader liked banging away on a manual machine that sounds alive. My boss deviously assigned me, a non-technical scribbler, to learn computers and teach our newspaper staff the same in 1975. At first, typewriter and pencil/pad were my only teaching tools that didn’t crash, but we finally said a sad farewell to the old faithful Royals, Smith Coronas and Underwoods.

—Ernest F. Imhoff ’59, Baltimore, Md. 

In “History of the Book,” the caption for the 17th century printer’s type case is incorrect, stating that it “holds all the individual pieces of metal type to set a text by hand, with small letters in the ‘lower’ part of the case and capital letters in the ‘upper part.’” In fact, two separate cases are involved. The upper case is a double-cap case to hold capital and small capital letters. The lower case holds miniscules, figures, punctuation and letter spaces. Since text uses relatively few capitals, they are held farthest from the compositor.

—Charles Klensch ’48, New York, N.Y.